Towards an integrated model of semiotic development

Jordan Zlatev, Lorraine McCune

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


In previous work, McCune (1995, 2008) and Zlatev (2007, 2013) recognized the importance of reviving a coherent cross-domain theory of semiotic development. Despite inevitable differences, the two approaches converge on their explanations of development across the first three years. Both recognized representational ability as a critical feature at the transition to language and both emphasized the importance of intersubjectivity. McCune sought a non-linguistic measure of mental representation for comparison with language development in its early phases and operationalized Piaget's descriptions of play levels through detailed analyses of naturalistic longitudinal and cross-sectional data. Zlatev documented a step-wise development of intersubjectivity over the first three years of life, emphasizing the central role of bodily mimesis (cf. Donald, 1991). Despite varying sources, both models identified five levels/stages of semiotic development that cohere remarkably well. The present chapter presents a comparison of the McCune and Zlatev models, and proposes an integrated account offering a more complete analysis that now recognizes six stages of semiotic development, extending from birth through three years of age. The model is discussed in the context of broader frameworks such as dynamic systems (Thelen and Smith, 1994) and cognitive semiotics (Zlatev, 2012).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCognitive Development
Subtitle of host publicationTheories, Stages and Processes and Challenges
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781631176111
ISBN (Print)9781631176043
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


  • Imitation
  • intersubjectivity
  • language
  • mimesis
  • play
  • representation
  • symbols


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